A twisted imagination. A sinister but enchanting world where darkness coexists with brightness. A gothic world full of weird creatures with contradicting personalities, wearing stripes and twisted curves that never end.
It’s the world of Tim Burton – the artist, the idiosyncratic director of countless films that moved us with Corpse Bride, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, and the list can go on. And recently, his new 2016 movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has arrived to surprise us with his charm once again.
Like many Burton heroes, Jake is an outcast. Growing up, his childhood is full of magical, but remarkably descriptive tales that his grandfather had always spoke of – the Welsh manor inhabited by headmistress Miss Peregrine and her “peculiar” children with bizarre abilities. But soon, the sudden, mysterious death of his grandfather triggers the astounding adventure full of time loops, engaging, unique characters, and horrendous monsters called “Hologausts.”
As a passionate, heated fan of Tim Burton, I was thrown back the moment the movie was released. I remembered reading the book Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children written by Ransom Riggs years past, and I never imagined this would become a movie, and even more so, one by Tim Burton! In truth, I was not only surprised, but slightly hesitant, because I remembered the book being quite complex, elaborate, and full of characters and events. In fact, I even got lost in the middle of the book with its the rapid pace and so many happenings that constantly forced me to reread, just to follow the plot. But it turns out, I didn’t have to worry at all.
The beautiful and decorative visuals with grand music set the motion for the fantastical adventure, along with Burton’s classic gothic production design. And at the same time, this film touched me with a different feeling. Unlike Burton’s other adventurous film Alice in Wonderland, Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children possessed a more intimate, humane connection with the main characters. It wasn’t just a display of the uncanny, but full of personal emotions like love, friendship, and coming of age. Beginning the scene in the busy, contemporary 2016 era with real-life “normal” humans for once, and Jake explicitly shown as an everyday teenager with conflicts with his parents, already felt like a new approach.
Moreover, there is an implicit tragic backdrop to this story. A true, historical depiction of tragedies faced during WWII and Nazism – where Jake’s grandfather Abe escapes from Poland and how the peculiar children are forever stuck in September 3, 1940, the day before their home is destroyed by the German bombs by a time loop, or even the name “Hologausts” for the monsters.
I was impressed and shocked at not simply how entertaining and smooth the film went, but just the incredible scale of creativity and imagination Burton possesses. Nothing in the movie was what I pictured when reading the book. The exciting individuality in each character, the queer but alluring mood, and primely, the thrill during the fight between the children and Hologausts was so remarkably illustrated. I was captivated the entire time throughout the movie. Indeed, I admire Riggs for his novel book with his fresh, dynamic idea and plot, but for me, there was always that slight lack of delivery. I understand it must have been a great challenge to express all the dashing plotlines and ideas into simple words.
With this, I truly realized what an staggering job Fantasy authors must go through just to fluidly communicate the setting and plot for the readers, and what an unbelievable thinker Tim Burton is.
In other words, Miss Peregrine and the Peculiar Children is definitely another major film by Tim Burton that must be watched.
– Sammie Kim 18′
(Featured image from 20th Century Fox)